No Frills Phones and Service Plans

Category: Mobile

If you still cling to a humble flip phone with no Internet access, touchscreen, or apps, you are not alone. According to Forrester Research, 29% of Internet-using Americans do not use smartphones as their main phones. If you're looking for a no-frills phone, or an inexpensive mobile calling plan, here's my roundup of some of the best deals available...

Thanks, But No Smartphone For Me

Earlier this year, Business Insider profiled “12 wildly successful people who still use flip phones” , including actress Kate Beckinsale and Baltimore Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

A significant number of youngsters prefer the simplicity of “just talk and text,” too; 15% of 18-24 year-olds and 13% of 25-34 year-olds, according to Forrester. “Personally I’m too scattered and unfocused to handle email and Facebook on my phone,” 26 year-old Angelica Baker told Time magazine.

Others are sold on the ruggedness of old-school phones. Sam Hertz, another 20-something, said of his 5 year-old Samsung flip phone, “It has lived through torrential rainstorms, and I’m pretty sure that I’ve dropped it three stories from a stairwell.”

No-Frills Phones and Plans

A host of no-frills, budget-minded phones and service plans are available. Basic flip phones like the Motorola C139 with prepaid Tracfone service go for less than $25 on Amazon. It has a tiny, low-resolution color display and it does just talk and text, with basic apps like a calculator and calendar built in. The $42.90 Alcatel Big Easy Flip phone includes a 2 Mpixel camera, Bluetooth capability, and an MP3 player; another $94.99 gets you a year’s worth of Tracfone service with 400 minutes per month.

How about a $9.99 refurbished AT&T Z222 GoPhone? The cheapest GoPhone prepaid service plan is $30/month (plus fees and taxes). You get unlimited talk and text in the U. S., and unlimited texting to Canada, Mexico, and over 100 other countries. Data is pretty expensive at $5 per 100 MB.

Verizon’s “Basic Phones” lineup starts at $49.99 for the LG Revere 3 flip phone. For $35/month, you can get prepaid unlimited talk and text in the U. S., Mexico, Canada, and Puerto Rico, plus 500 MB of data.

Even better bargains can be found among the scores of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO), the less-famous companies that have no nationwide infrastructure of their own. Instead, they buy service from the big carriers at wholesale prices, then resell plans to consumers. Consumer Cellular seems to be one of the most popular ones, offering plans starting at $10/month with free activation.

Prepaid Phone News is an excellent resource for up-to-date information about mobile phone plans from other MVNOs such as Republic WIreless, Straight Talk, Cricket Wireless, Net10, Virgin Mobile, AirVoice, Boost, Lyca Mobile, and many others.

Totally free phones and limited free talk-and-text service are available for people who qualify for Medicaid or SNAP (food stamps). The federal government subsidizes basic mobile phone service through the Lifeline program. Vendors such as Assurance Wireless offer 250 free monthly minutes, and for about $5 more customers can get 500 minutes of talk plus unlimited texting in the USA.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 23 Oct 2015


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Most recent comments on "No Frills Phones and Service Plans"

(See all 27 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Elizabeth Davenport
23 Oct 2015

Andrew Luck is the QB for Indianapolis Colts, not Baltimore!!!!


Posted by:

Gary Strobel
23 Oct 2015

Hello Rob,

PureTalkUSA (puretalkusa.com) is also a very good option to really save. My monthly phone and text is $25 per month for a family of 4. This includes 700 minutes for the master line, and 70 minutes for each sub-line on the account. Net, I am receiving 910 minutes per month that rollover, all on a no contract. We get 3 texts per minute of talk time. Great plan!


Posted by:

Stuart Berg
23 Oct 2015

Bob,
I think you meant that Tracfone service was 400 minutes with a YEAR of service (not 400 minutes per month).
Stu


Posted by:

bob
23 Oct 2015

why not Tracfone wireless?


Posted by:

RandiO
23 Oct 2015

Mr. Rankin,
Your newsletter heading states "Thanks, But No Smartphone For Me" and I am wondering who that "Me" refers to...
It is very difficult to continue being a refusnik these days, and I (personally) don't know how much longer I can hold out w/o owning a smartphone. For example, most 2-Factor Authentication sites almost mandate ownership of one. I am glad that Google provides their free gVoice (now part of Google Hangouts) service since that is the only means of being able communicate/text (SMS) with smartphone owners; for those of us who are still refusniks.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Usually the 2-factor services will let you confirm via text message.


Posted by:

Karena
23 Oct 2015

I discovered this back in May - finally had to replace our Verizon phones - they don't have much of a selection in the basic phones, but I wound up with a much better deal than our previous plan. I even added a line for a total of less than what I had been paying before. I now have unlimited voice and text (previously, 1400 mins/mo and pay-per-text) for $100/mo +tax for five lines (I'm also paying about an additional $20/mo for 2 yrs to finance the cost of all five new phones).


Posted by:

D. Rohs
23 Oct 2015

Bob, was it you that spoke about another cell phone service in one of your emails ~ https://ting.com/?

I've been reading this and it looks amazing. According to their rate calculator, I can save almost half on my current cellular plan. And that's adding an additional line. They bill at the END of the month and your charges are based solely on your usage. Genius plan.

All your readers should check this out.


Posted by:

RichF
23 Oct 2015

Are you sure about that Tracfone price of $94/yr for 400 min a month? I've been with them for a while and that sounds like the yearly min rate.


Posted by:

ha
23 Oct 2015

Ptel is good.


Posted by:

Kevin
23 Oct 2015

As I posted previously on a related topic, for 8 years now, I have used PagePlus Cellular, a "reseller" of Verizon's tower network. If your usage is really low-frills/low usage, their "Standard Pay-As-You-Go" service costs just $30 for the ENTIRE YEAR ($10 every four months). The big advantage with this is that you only need to "refill" every 4 months and unused minutes always roll over, as long as you don't forget to refill on time. You can put in the minimum $10 which gets you a rate of 10-cents per talk minute and 5 cents for texts, for four months. If your need is not quite that light, refill with higher amounts, which also get better per/minute rates. I go for the highest ($80) which actually gets me 2000 talk minutes (that's 4-cents/min, though texts are still 5-cents) AND lets me go one full year (instead of four months) before the next refill without losing the rollover balance.

Data (3G) is available but expensive on their prepaid (10 cents/Meg!) so if you need that, go instead for a monthly plan, either from them, or another company. For PagePlus prepaid, you need a Verizon-compatible phone (any, except for the Verizon prepaid type) that you no longer have registered at another carrier. (Don't close your old account entirely until Page Plus has ported in the phone number for you.) Athough you can setup and pay online, the best refill type ($80) can only be bought at a dealer location. Unfortunately, there are not many dealers (and the website's list seems out-of-date), so there might not be one near you. A lot of the above may eventually change however, since I hear that Tracphone bought PagePlus a couple of years ago.


Posted by:

GURUPERF
24 Oct 2015

Big fan of Consumer Cellular - especially with the AARP discount. They made it easy to transition to a Smartphone, have very affordable, no-contract plans, add a second line to share the plan for $10 a month. Plus, they allow you to change your plan mid-month, even retroactively, should data usage, for example, spike one month. And you can then change back again for the next month. No negatives to report, as the coverage has been very good.


Posted by:

Lee Dalzell
24 Oct 2015

I bought an old refurbished Verizon flip phone from Cellular Page some 15 years ago...still works and it costs me $10 every 3-4 months for 100 minutes. No data, I had text turned off. Use it only for calling--mostly when traveling or making long distance calls from work (where it is not allowed). Fine for me.


Posted by:

Bev
24 Oct 2015

We use tracfone and have the big easy alcatel. It's a nice phone. However, Tracfone is 400 minutes a YEAR, not per month for the $99. But all phones now double the minutes so it is really 800 minutes - which is a fair amount if you don't talk a lot. And all of the unused ones roll over.


Posted by:

Alex
24 Oct 2015

About a year ago, I went shopping for an all frills phone, with a provider that has no contract, and cheap. I found GoSmart. For $30/mo, I get unlimited calls and text with 2.5 G of data, but that's with automatic payments. It's $35/mo with internet payments. As far as the cell goes, I found a Samsung S5 (unlocked by Samsung, to keep the 1 year warranty. If a third party unlocks it, the warranty is void) for $400. Unlocked means that I can take my phone and go to any provider that will accept it (ie, if you buy a Verizon phone, and want to change to AT&T, you have to buy an AT&T phone. With an unlocked phone, you can take your phone with you to a different provider, if they will take it. I shopped around and found GoSmart). Just to let you know, I use 2-3000 (not a typo) cell minutes a month. Text is not my favorite, but I use it every now and then, and it's handy when you want to send photos. GoSmart has their own cheap cells, no contract, and great coverage.
PS I don't work for GoSmart. It's just a good buy.


Posted by:

TK
24 Oct 2015

Thanks, Bob, for the options and carriers that are available to those of us that are too busy to learn all of the "Way Cool" features of a smart phone. One question: When did the Colts get moved back to Baltimore? Do the Ravens know about this?


Posted by:

Lee H
24 Oct 2015

Use an old flip phone with $80 for 1 year 4000 minutes on page plus. Lasts me about a year; 2nd plan lasts 6-8 months for my wife's flip phone. The smartphones are limited to WiFi only (on my Internet service or public WiFi),including SIP phone & text messages.


Posted by:

TN
25 Oct 2015

We have been (mostly) satisfied Tracfone customers for over 10 years. We have a small summer cabin northern CA on the edges of cellular service zones and found that smart phones just weren't able to connect to the far away cell towers at all, but a modest Huawei H110C ($15 through Radio Shack online) no-frills phone+basic texting device works great. For really stubborn connection days, we add a Wilson Electronics cell signal booster to ensure a stable connection. We theorize that these phones, designed to be just phones without a lot of other features, may work better as phones than the jack-of-all trades smart phones. Thanks for another great article.


Posted by:

Ron
27 Oct 2015

I have a verizon plan at $5+tax per month. Minutes accumulate. I don't use it much. Free to other Verizon's.


Posted by:

Ron
27 Oct 2015

I have a verizon plan at $5+tax per month. Minutes accumulate. I don't use it much. Free to other Verizon's.


Posted by:

Diane
24 Dec 2016

What are the no frill options if AT&T is the only carrier I can use for my area. Just calls and texting (no camera, no internet etc.)?


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